NJ Assembly votes to expand suicide prevention on college campuses

New Jersey

University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia Wednesday, May 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

TRENTON, N.J. — New Jersey’s State Assembly voted unanimously to expand mental health and suicide prevention efforts on college campuses, expanding a law meant to honor a college student from the Garden State who took her own life in 2014.

The bill expands the Madison Holleran Suicide Prevention Act, named for a 19-year-old girl from the Bergen County town of Allendale who took her own life during her second semester at the University of Pennsylvania. Her story became national news, with one of the emerging details being that family and friends had not seen Holleran exhibit outward signs of depression before starting college.

The expansion of the Madison Holleran Act requires mental health experts on campuses to work with and annually train faculty and resident assistants to recognize signs of depression, as well as warning signs and risk factors of suicide. Staff and resident assistants would be trained to refer students to crisis hotlines and mental health screenings. Colleges would also develop mental health crisis assessment and response plans to be used by staff and resident assistants to identify, assess and respond to a student in crisis.

Higher education institutions would also be required to annually conduct mental health public awareness campaigns on campus to give students information on depression and suicide, raise awareness for available mental health services and reduce stigma associated with seeking help.

The legislation now goes to the Senate for further consideration.

Thursday, the a bill passed unanimously by the New Jersey Senate Thursday would require public schools to administer screenings for depression in students from grades seven through 12.

“Suicide is preventable. We can never fully erase the pain of the countless families who have lost their children to suicide, but we can do everything in our power to help those in crisis and spare families unimaginable loss,” said assembly sponsors Mila Jasey, James Kennedy and Bill Moen, all Democrats, in a statement. It is our hope that increasing staff and peer training and reducing the stigma around mental health will help reach more students suffering in silence.”

If you or someone you know are struggling with suicidal thoughts, click here for resources.

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